Manulife donates $300,000 to Laurier Jumpstart Program

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Graphic by Alan LI

Wilfrid Laurier University’s Jumpstart to Higher Education program recently received a $300,000 donation from Manulife earlier this month.

The generous gift will ultimately allow the program to continue running and expand further into the Waterloo Region as well as into Brantford.

“Laurier and Manulife enjoy a successful partnership that has spanned nearly four decades,” Deborah MacLatchy, president and vice-chancellor of Laurier, said in a Laurier press release.

“Manulife’s generous gift will make a material difference in the futures of thousands of children from our communities. Jumpstart to Higher Education continues Manulife and Laurier’s long tradition of fostering lasting social change through community partnerships.”

The Jumpstart to Higher Education program is a post-secondary education literacy intervention program that works to target grade seven and eight students in public schools within the Waterloo Region.

“The program is really targeting schools and communities where there is a higher percentage of families with a lower post-secondary attainment. What we’re trying to do is de-mystify post-secondary education for them,” Gail Forsyth, director: teaching, learning and retention at Jumpstart to Higher Education, said.

The program helps students understand the various post-secondary pathways at a young age. Students are able to seek answers to questions surrounding post-secondary options, such as funding, different careers and education streams and more.

Although the mandate of the Jumpstart program is not to recruit students to attend Laurier, Forsyth noted that the program often naturally leaves a positive impression on students and their families.

“They don’t have the same role models that they would normally have in communities where there’s a lot of families or parents that have gone on to post-secondary,” Forsyth said.

“So we’re trying to provide that information for those students early on so they can be less anxious about exploring post-secondary and learn about the pathways.”

The program was first developed five years ago. However, the current funding limited the program to remain solely within public schools within the Waterloo Region.

“This most recent gift allows us to continue to develop the program and expand it to the Brantford community where there’s a high percentage of communities that are Indigenous,” Forsyth said.

Manulife’s donation will ultimately allow the program to continue running and expanding for a minimum of three years, with a potential for two years after that.

“We’re excited to being able to continue the program, because without the funding it would have stopped … we can continue to evolve and I’m excited that we can move into the Brantford community because we also have a campus in Brantford,” Forsyth said.

Although the mandate of the Jumpstart program is not to recruit students to attend Laurier, Forsyth noted that the program often naturally leaves a positive impression on students and their families.

“By default, I think we will certainly have some positive relationships that people will think about [Laurier] in a high regard and will remember us, but that is certainly not the mandate or the goal,” Forsyth said.

“The goal is really about encouraging youth in this area to embrace post-secondary education — in whatever stream is the best stream for them for their career and aspirations — that’s really what we’re looking for.”

In correspondence with the program, a research component called Poverty Reduction Research Group has been developed in order to measure the long-term effects and impacts of Jumpstart.

The data collected by the research group will work to, hopefully, incorporate Jumpstart’s goals and mandates into the Ontario junior high curriculum for all students to have access to.

“I’m grateful that we have the opportunity to provide post-secondary education literacy for these students, I hope it brings and encourages students to consider post-secondary as a viable option,” Forsyth said.

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